[May 6, 2022] Be loyal. Never betray. The idea of loyalty is as ancient as human association with others, although often revealed in its opposite (disloyalty, betrayal, ingratitude). The world’s greatest thinkers have studied the notion of human commitments, whether to God or each other and regard loyalty, as a remarkable virtue worthy of true wonder.
This concept is strong with emotion and cannot be discounted. Loyalty’s practical value is without argument. Loyalty to others means to protect them from harm; the opposite is to destroy.
“You stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through good and bad because they’d do the same for you.” – Yogi Berra
In the underworld of Dante’s Inferno (Italian language for “Hell”), when he outlined the levels of Hell, he was trying to get to the bottom of what constituted evil. There are various ways to behave wickedly, but there is a pecking order of evil behavior. There is something that is the absolute worse at the bottom. Moreover, Dante believed it was a betrayal.
Betrayal is devastating. It is worse than crime. It is worse than thievery, bribery, slavery, and even worse than murder. Betrayal destroys not just a person but the belief in the intrinsic good nature of all humans. It undermines everything we know and all we have come to hold dear to ourselves.
One human act that enables long-term peaceful cooperation between people is trust. Loyalty is the outgrowth of trust. Trust is an unbelievably powerful force in human activity; it is the basis of everything we do. Without trust, we cannot act cooperatively with others, we cannot exist peacefully, and we cannot live alongside others. Trust allows us to predict the acceptable and beneficial behavior of others. And trust is always a two-way street. Only by giving it can you gain it. If trust is to exist, trust must be given and taken. To protect others and to have their back is a necessary form of trust. When someone trusts us, they know that any threat against them will be met by others to protect and defend.
And, of course, “Check your Six.” Also phrased as “watch your back,” means be careful of what’s behind you. It’s a military phrase adopted in civilian phraseology, where “six” refers to numbers on an imaginary clock, 12 is directly in front of you, and six is behind. Loyalty is an essential element in this idea because no one can be on guard against every possibility. Good friends, family, and co-workers can help you check your six. Be situationally aware, be open to the input of others, be transparent in your dealing with others, and remember that there are folks out there who will attempt to destroy you just because they can.
So, being a good person means to check your Six and protect the back of others.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).